Thanksgiving in hurt

“You’re going through a hard time, but you have this and that to be thankful for.” I will probably hear that a few times today, or “feel” it being said with eyes or unspoken avoidance. Both of those things are true–the hardest time of my life, and much to be thankful for. It sounds better to me with the “and” than with the “but.” It strikes me that the “and” makes it reversible. “I have much to be thankful for and I am going through a hard time.”

These semantics are important to me. I call these coexistent truths. The “but” means I am doing something wrong. That I am wrong to be depressed when I have so much to be thankful for. Coexistent truths are important to me because I am learning about my goodness while not forgetting my badness. I am experiencing happy times amongst my sadness. Smiles and tears are mixing together. I can feel unworthy and worthy, because I have all of you–my angels, whom I value deeply, and who value me. I am going through a hard time, and I have each of you to be thankful for.

If I cry today, and my tears drip from my chin onto my heart, they will land where they belong, where they are welcome, where they can be held in vastness, because my angels have softened and swelled my heart, where I carry them, even apart.

Doubting Worthiness

How can it be that such an enormous God seeks you and me personally, with unfathomable passion?

“…doubting Thomas … is not really a story about believing in the fact of the resurrection but a story about believing that someone could be wounded and also resurrected at the same time!” (

Great stories have many meanings. I love that one. And thought about my own spin. Maybe what Thomas couldn’t believe was that Jesus died. Not that he thought the crucifixion was a staged act. But he was just “blown away” and incredulous, like when we say, “I don’t BELIEVE this.” Overwhelming.

Why the NEED to probe wounds? The doubt was maybe overwhelm about the suffering and humiliation his lord endured. Thomas and all who witnessed miracles wondered silently what the mockers said aloud: Why can’t/won’t he save himself. “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the DEAD.” (Jn20:9)

Understanding. More than proof that Jesus was wounded and dead. When Thomas probed the wounds, his reaction was not, “Damn, it is you!” or, “You ARE alive!” Or, “You WERE dead.” Instead Thomas professed:

“My lord and MY God!”

THAT is what Thomas doubted, then came to understand. Before that profession, he may have accepted in his mind what Jesus told him–that he is the Son of God. He heard/understood in a shallow but non-understanding way, because he trusted his friend and teacher.

At the moment of his profession, not only was he with Jesus, but — maybe more importantly — he was with other disciples, affirming that he wasn’t hallicinating in delusion. Sometimes my belief is actually reduced to only the affirmation by other witnesses: “We can’t ALL be crazy.” But sometimes being part of a worldwide movement of billions over 2 millennia isn’t enough inside my shallow mind and heart. That large company doesn’t entirely comport with a personal God. It’s too big to be small like me. It’s overwhelming, so *could* be unreal. Doubt.

Maybe Thomas doubted — in the sense of being overwhelmed — his own faith that his beloved friend and teacher was one with God. Who can fault him? Despite witnessing miracles your friend performed, if he told you he was one with God, you’d have doubt too, wouldn’t you? God seems bigger than a personal friend.

To say the obvious, our doubt is inside our own head and heart. A hesitation or reluctance to believe. Or? An overwhelming awe at the immeasurable magnitude of the proposition to be believed:

I am a beloved friend of God?


Thomas, you, and I, are much, much more than just a good ‘friend’ of God.

Earlier in Jn20 Jesus instructs the Magdalene: “Go to MY BROTHERS and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and YOUR Father, to my God and YOUR God.’” (v17). As Jesus was a child of God, we are too!

Thomas was “blessed” even though he doubted his own belief. Would Jesus have called him blessed if his doubt wasn’t forgivably understandable? I get comfort from that. John “the beloved” fell to sleep in Gethsemane. As did Peter who later thrice abandoned his beloved friend. I wonder if those figurative deaths were more painful to the sweet and gentle Nazarene than death by Roman wood and nails. And how did he react? With the tenderness of true love.

I have not walked with the rabbi as those beloved friends did, yet by blessing “those who have not seen,” he holds me with the same naked compassion. I can deny, abandon, and doubt 7 times 70 times. But I am delusional to think I can prevent his word (Jn18:9):

“I have lost none of them, … … not one.”

You are “one of them.” I am one. We might feel lost. “Peace” might not yet “be with you.” We may yet be unable to “be not afraid.” Maybe because “as yet they did not understand.”


{Neil D., 2019-04-28}

{More on how hard it is to believe that God covets a passionate love affair with us: “The human soul is being gradually readied so that actual intimacy and partnership with the Divine are the result… most of us won’t allow ourselves to think of an actual intimate relationship with God. Only God in you, “the Holy Spirit planted in your heart,” can imagine such a possibility… It is important not to confuse divine union with human perfection. The choice for union is always from God’s side; our response is always and forever partial and feeble… Divine Love has no trouble loving imperfect things! That is just our human problem. If God could only love perfect things, God would have nothing to do.}

Where will I meet God today

Last night, I interrupted my youngest’s immersion in homework anxiety to share a short passage from the book in my own lap. What followed was one of those great gifts of paternity, as his active, young teenage mind probed mysteries I haven’t visited for a very long time. This morning, as he readied to leave for school, I asked him where he might meet God today.

Many months ago, Kevin waved his arm in a large arc, asking, “Isn’t this church beautiful? … Look at the size of those organ pipes… The soaring height of this ceiling… [etc.]” He explained their intention to raise our spirits to a certain sense of awe, but lamented that sometimes God seems too big.

Of course, God cannot be contained. Not in an enormous, magnificent cathedral. The oft-forgotten mystery of the Trinity means God is even too infinite to contain Godself. For all eternity God has flowed between three Persons. The notion of only Parent and Son is inadequate–even metaphorically.* No, God’s third dimension (The Spirit) unleashes God into all levels of creation–in God’s fullness, not separate from God’s other selves. It’s impossible to talk about this mystery with boundaries; and metaphors are always bounded.

Holy cow, this God is gigantic. No wonder we have to bow down to “Lord.” God is separate from me…

I don’t think so. That’s no fun. So if God is not too big for me:

Where will I meet God today?

I have a business flight later today, and surely God can be experienced in the awesome clouds through which I will pass. But maybe that will be too big for me. Instead, today, within my grasp:

I hope to pause, if just for the briefest of moments, when I meet the eye of another. For those instants, I hope to see souls. That is where I will look for God today.

And, I hope, at a few points today – maybe as I wash hands before a bathroom mirror – I will have the courage to look past my bad shave and unruly eyebrows, and stare into my own eyes. For I, too, have a soul…

As they departed for school, I asked: “Noah, where will you look for God today?” His older brother, not intended as part of the conversation, but being his older brother, of course, despite having a mouthful of toothpaste, interrupted: “I hope I’ll find him taking my physics test for me…”

Neil D. 2017-10-25

(KINGDOMS 2) Dances with Leaves

[These musings are a sequel to (KINGDOMS 1) Mystical Gardeners]

I have traveled to The Bay area much recently. My favorite days are temperate weather with light or no breeze. But they are surprisingly rare. Most days the wind is substantial and relentless.

I sat for many minutes in a persistent wind, waiting for my ride. Waiting–a word we use in our familiar world kingdom when things or life are not moving quickly enough for us to feel our living is productive or rewarding.

Beside my bench was a strange tree, or bush – a plant form unfamiliar to me. It’s fronds were dancing with each other in the wind – bumping and scraping one another. A sound I don’t think I’ve ever heard. I wonder if plants delight in the wind, dancing with motion unfamiliar to their kingdom. I wonder if they are singing out praise to God at a frequency my ears cannot hear, praising God to experience a kingdom unfamiliar to them… Their microscope. Their fast-forward time lapse.

My wait slowed down, in communion between two kingdoms. It was those leaves who communed with *my* kingdom. Joined me in the timescale of my world. Happened only because something opened me to receiving.

Wind is like the Spirit; it is invisible, but it brought us together. When I was receptive, anyway.

If later today, after temperatures rise, I am outside and hot, I will turn to the wind so that rushing air blows in my face. So that it cools and comforts me. Yet, even when the air is still, I know that molecules in the air never stop. Same air as wind. Both God doing work invisibly on different scales… Kingdoms at hand…

Neil D. 2019-07-30

Who Has Seen the Wind?



Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.


Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.

Science discovered trees talk to each other, in the language of their own kingdom, and the chatter makes the whole forest more whole, above and below ground: I say trees have souls.

Related FeelWithNeil: Ode to a Sacred Twig – An exercise for the soul

(KINGDOMS 1) Mystical Gardeners

I’ve had the uncommon pleasure of seeing the frenetic but organized flow through the cells of plants by microscopy. It made the kingdom plantae “come alive” for me.

We all know plants to be alive by their macroscopic motion like growth, or withering, or, the favorite of most, flowering. But because those transformations happen so slowly, they seem to be on a timescale of a kingdom different than ours. Plant-lovers capture time-lapse videos to appeal to wider masses. And everyone is enthralled by the Venus fly trap (Google for a video). When we see it snap shut on prey, we can’t think of it as only a plant; we search for eyes around the scary jaws….

We project our kingdom onto everything…

Loving gardeners nurture life. They have a gift of patience for transformation–a vision that doesn’t need to see life’s motion on our time scale. I envy it. They can sit and adore their garden at the very state it is in, the co-creation of their toil. But, I suspect those long moments of adoration are sometimes or eventually interrupted by visions of their creation’s future. An unwelcome weed. Open ground that could use a shrub…or, god forbid, a home for a gnome:)

I sense that mystics resemble real plant lovers. By meditation they seek stillness as the background against which God moves them, on the timescale of a different kingdom. Those experiences are visions which see God’s creative work being done in our more familiar kingdom of the world. They see God in things that appear not to be moving to most of us. An ugly weed sitting still in its soil is beautiful by that vision – without a microscope, without snapping jaws – perhaps because they have a sense of their own time-lapse video in the world. They see closer linkage between the past and the future – linkage to the now. Contentment simply to be.

Sequel: (KINGDOMS 2) Dances with Leaves

Neil D. 2019-07-30

Science discovered trees talk to each other, in the language of their own kingdom, and the chatter makes the whole forest more whole, above and below ground: I say trees have souls.

Related FeelWithNeil: Ode to a Sacred Twig – An exercise for the soul

Green Shirt

The gently soft-spoken 20-something didn’t seem to ever stop talking except when he asked of me simple questions and waited for replies with earnestness that made me feel like my answer would be divine and resonate with profoundly undeniable truth and universal wisdom. He sat on a park bench with his beautiful, unthreatening, expectant, wide eyes open naturally enough to look up at me as I stood beside the bench on which he sat lower. His eyes weren’t bloodshot or distant, squinted or spookily wide. His pupils locked on my gaze, without blinking, without discomfort or shame. Without abiding by any conventions of time or rhythm familiar. Just natural, as anyone’s might be awaiting an answer, unconsciously exhaling the puff of smoke from a satisfying drag off the cigarette he just bummed off me…

He did that several times, awaiting several answers to several questions. Of me. Me. Me? Me!

Not hard answers to give. But not easy questions to ask. So, wait–maybe hard questions to answer, but not hard words to summon in answer: “Yeah.” “That’s true.” I know.” “I feel you.” “Right.” “Damn.” “I know.”

Know? Do I really *know* anything?

Now I know I do.

Green Shirt talked and asked about his joy and loss of waking next to her, whose name he didn’t remember. Of being anxious about how he would get eggs and bacon like yesterday. Would the nurses let him have the medicine he needed again?

He’s glad it’s warm today.

Hopes it will be tonight, wherever he winds up.

Wants to work on my car. She knows how to service bearings. He knows he has to clean up dog poop in the park before her company lets him collect cans. She’s not afraid to work hard. Why do they think their reality’s rules make more sense?

Yeah, I suppose Yeshua from Nazareth wore some shade of white fabric in the middle eastern form of that time. But I think, yesterday morning, He wore a green t-shirt.

If you see Green Shirt today, tell her I miss him. Tell him I said hello. Tell her I remember him. Say Hello to her for me. Thank him for talking to me about her own world. Tell her I love hymn… because he trusted me just to affirm her truth. And … loved ME too.

Neil D. 2019-07-25